Nov 172015

My Reiki teacher, Prasad, narrated this to us. I paraphrase,

The setting is the sabha of the Kauravas, and the scene is the Vastraharan. As long as Draupadi holds on to the cloth that covers her, Dushsasana is successful. It is when she leaves that cloth, and takes that leap of faith, puts her hands  up and tells God ‘this is your problem now, do sometihng’ – that the cloth keeps growing, and growing, and growing, till Dushsasna loses. As long as she thought she was the one who was fighting, she was losing the battle. It is when she parks her ego and calls out for help, unreservedly, that help arrives.

i wonder about this at times. Sometimes i just say a silent prayer and leave it to to divine intervention. When i say silent prayer – it is usually colloquiol – ‘i can’t handle this anymore, you sort it out’ type.And, it usually works.

Yeah. it has been one of those years – where i have thought about this story, a bit too frequently. Asking for help is not something i do easily. I don’t even think about it, most of the time. But, this year, i have.

glass and wire

(a bit like this year – shot yesterday – shards of glass meeting barbed wire )…

Nov 162015

Micheal Caine, playing Alfred tells Christian Bale, playing Bruce Wayne (Batman), about a nihilist called the Joker.

Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

What will you do to keep the world safe ?

ISIS, whichever way you look at them, are nihilists. They seek to rule the world with their warped version of religion. They have cut a swathe of terror through the regions they have captured. Look at what they have done to the Yazidis. This from this week, where they have found a mass grave with women, too old to be used as sex slaves:

A mass grave believed to hold the remains of dozens of Yazidi women executed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group was found Saturday in northern Iraq, officials said.
The grave, which has not yet been excavated, is located on the edge of the town of Sinjar, which was captured from ISIS this week in an operation led by Kurdish security forces and backed by U.S.-led air strikes.
The area is infamous for a brutal ISIS campaign of massacres, enslavement and rape against Yazidis, a minority group whose faith the jihadists consider heretical.
The grave contains the bodies of some 78 women aged between 40 to around 80, according to younger women who had been enslaved by ISIS, witnessed the executions and later escaped, said Miyasir Hajji, a Sinjar council member.

This is what they have done with millenia old history

It does something to our sense of ourselves, and of humanity, when we see pictures of men, willfully and with impunity, destroying some of the world’s oldest and rarest archeological treasures. A couple of weeks ago, it was video clips of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham’s extremists wielding sledgehammers and drills, methodically destroying an exquisitely carved stone lamassu, or winged man-bull, at the Assyrian complex of Nimrud, which was created by artists nearly three thousand years ago. A few days later, it was the ancient temple complex of Hatra, in northern Iraq, which was built by the Seleucid Empire around two or three centuries before Christ. Hatra had been the site of a series of glorious colonnaded buildings and statues; it is reported that beginning on March 7th, ISIS destroyed what was left of them. On Monday, there were new images on social media showing ISIS extremists attacking the grounds of St. George’s, a centuries-old Chaldean Catholic monastery outside of Mosul. In this world of all-seeing, all-hearing killer drones, these acts somehow continue.

This is what they have done to people in areas they have gained control – Shias, Sufis, Christians, and anyone else who is not like them (this is last year’s HRW report, this year the toll would have gone up)

ISIS,….(has) systematically killed and threatened Iraq’s Chaldo-Assyrian Christians, Shia Shabaks and Turkmen, and Yazidis, labeling them crusaders, heretics, and devil-worshipers, respectively.

Last week they bombed Beirut, Baghdad and Paris.

The comparisons with 26/11 are natural. And also very real. It is almost as though the terror planner watched every bit of video and read every transcript of the carnage in Mumbai and planned a surgical and brutal strike. Anyone who has seen videos and pictures of the carnage of both, cannot help but make those comparisons.

And, there is one comparison above all that needs to be considered. And, that is, these people – the terror masters, and their rabid minions – don’t want to talk. don’t want to negotiate. Don’t want to listen to reason. Don’t want to have anything to do with basic humanity and decency, or even rules of war. How do you get them to stop ?

The answer is actually quite simple, if terribly brutal. The only way to stop them is to stop them. Permanently. This means multiple things.

a) War – not air cover, where hands don’t get dirty, but, brutal infantry pushbacks and clean ups. there will be blood. Some of that blood will be of those attacking ISIS.  We know this, especially of western countries, their stomach for body bags coming home is low.

b) Cutting off funding and arms – can the international community crack down on these. This will piss off some of their allies (read Saudi Arabia), it will also piss off the powerful in their own communities (read arms dealers). Is there the stomach to deal with this.

c) build intelligence resources on the ground – while it may be too late for that, in being able to deal with ISIS, going forward it is needed. There are things that computers can do – collate and sift through tons of data – and there are things it cannot do, ie, have an instinct for the situation.

d) Leave the middle east alone in terms of political interference. It is none of your concern if there is a brutal dictator or a communist don. If the people of those lands don’t want them, they will do something about it. Stop creating power vacuums. Better the monsters you know than the monsters you don’t. Stop playing a great game that the west has neither the knowledge nor the stomach to handle. If you want to interfere, go with a plan, and that plan will mean feet on the street. And, feet on the street means bodybags.

There is no point in hand wringing and angsting. Or wondering why some cults hate you – they hate you because you exist. The hate you because you breathe. They hate you because you are happy. they hate you because you are you. And, they hate you because they can, and that hate drives them. you cannot compete at that level.

So do what has to be done. strengthen your spines, talk to your people and get geared for war. And be aware, this war is not going to be pretty or nice or short. But, only go to war if you are sure you are there for the long haul.

Nov 152015

After a long time, i wrote an opinion piece for the DNA. And, it essentially was on why India was not being ruled by the Hindu Taliban.

The Indian electorate makes informed and wise decisions – it may not be as literate or as sophisticated as its western counterpart; it may neither be as wealthy, nor as involved – but, the Indian voters have tended to surprise Indian politicians, political parties, and the world at large with their choices. We vote for a direction. We vote to teach rulers a lesson. We participate in the electoral process with joy and involvement. And, we vote because it is our right to do so. There are those who many not like the outcome, but that does not mean that the voters are wrong or have voted ‘fascists’ or ‘communists’ or whatever. Accepting the Indian voters’ choice is the first step of understanding and participating in Indian democracy. The political parties have to do so, in all humility. It is time supporters of those parties did so too.

Read the full piece here

Nov 122015

Mumbai is not, what you might call, a beautiful city. It has none of the splendour of a Delhi, or the old world charm of a Kolkata or Chennai, it probably is not as hep as parts of Bangalore and Pune. But, there is something about this city that is very alive and very energetic.  Also it is a city that looks much better at night than during the day – decades of adhoc urban planning has left us, Mumbaikars, with a melange of styles and structures – most clashing with each other.

I tried this as an experiment. I shot the same shot, more or less, across various day parts. It was not scientific. It most likely, was not even the same exact  frame, and, it was not automated to take pictures at regular intervals. Everytime i took a break, and remembered to bring the camera out, i shot a frame.

Mumbai - the Mill areas

This is how it looks during the day. Almost like the dwellings of human beings are swamped by alien structures.

Dusk approaches - mumbai

This is at evening, and the allure of the city beckons.


Dusk approaches - mumbai 2

Dusk makes the city look even prettier.

Dusk turns to Night

And, night makes it look like the city of gold. Where anyone can make a fortune. And, no one will sleep hungry.




Nov 102015

The Offerigs at the Aarti - Benaras (1 of 1)

My earliest memories of deepavali, were being woken up at the crack of dawn – have oil put on my head, a mixture of haldi and chandan on the face and body, and dragged into a bath. I must have been 3.  Post bath the goodies – new clothes, sweets and lehiyam.

But, Diwali in our families was always subdued. a) for us, it was only one day’s celebration. b) it was not the most important festival in our lives – Navratri was. c) there was usually very little money for fire crackers. My father ran a big family on one income, and we were brought up hearing, crackers are a waste, and you can’t shouldn’t burn Lakshmi.

Also, for us, the celebration of Diwali was Satyabhama killing Narakasura. So this entire North Indian festive season that is centered around Ram, and that starts with Navratri, culminates with the Death of Ravan and then the journey home to reach on Diwali day, that is part of the socio-cultural ethos, doesn’t exist. Over the next few centuries as India adopts common myths, it may. If i am not mistaken Kritikay – that marks the birth of Kartikeya used  to be far bigger a celebration.

But, big or not, important or not, it was a family thing. We celebrated diwali together as a family. Wherever we were. Mom still woke us up bright and early for Ganga Snanam. We still lit the single sparkler. We still lit diyas all over the house. we still ate all the sweets.

This is the first year, in a very long time, we aren’t celebrating.  For a festival that wasn’t so very important, suddenly it is. Ultimately, this, like every other festival is about family. About togetherness. About love. and, sharing. And, we terribly miss the core of our family, the man who generated the joy and laughter.

Next year is another Diwali. And we will celebrate it well (Inshallah).

For this year – Happy Deepavali to you and your family, and may there be peace and prosperity in your lives